F-35 price cut in offing with new deal inked between Pentagon and aircraft-maker

OTTAWA – The maker of the controversial F-35 is touting the new lower cost of the stealth fighter in a new agreement signed with the Pentagon.

Officials at Lockheed Martin say the price tag for the next two batches of the radar-evading jet built for the U.S., Australia, Italy, Norway and Britain will see successive price cuts of four per cent each year, and increased production.

The agreement will allow the U.S. Defence Department to purchase all 71 aircraft originally planned for those production phases, including those that were in jeopardy of being cut due to Washington’s sequestration budget impacts.

The average price tag for the current batch of F-35s is pegged at US$120 million, and Lockheed Martin officials say by mid-2015 the eight per cent price cut will be fully in effect.

Sticker shock and conflicting estimates have made the purchase of 65 F-35s a political lightning rod in Canada, where National Defence was accused of low-balling the liability to taxpayers.

The Harper government had put the purchase on hold while it evaluates whether to go to a full-blown competition to replace the air force’s CF-18 fleet.